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The Green Life: What About Bugs?

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July 10, 2008

What About Bugs?

Ants_with_earth Ask kids to draw their ideal rainforest, and you're likely to get a menagerie of mammals, birds, and reptiles. Spiders, worms, and ants, which with other invertebrates make up most of a rainforest's species, are less likely to make an appearance. That's what zoologists from the University of Cambridge found in a new study published in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS ONE. It's no surprise that children's imaginations flock to animals of the cute, fierce, and rainbow-colored kind, so why would a trio of serious scientists spend their time analyzing crayon sketches of toucans and leopards?

Taken as a group, the drawings offer a glimpse of how children perceive rainforest biodiversity. "Although awareness will not guarantee protection," the zoologists write, "lack of awareness will make achieving conservation of endangered environments and species difficult." In other words, the fact that kids put so much emphasis on the charismatic megafauna suggests they might be less inclined to support conservation of the little guys later in life (like Mom and Dad today).

Interestingly, older children in the group of 167 primary-schoolers were more likely than younger ones to draw human elements, often having something to do with conservation. Of course, these drawings were made in the days before Wall-E and his pet cockroach. It would be hard for even a Toco toucan to get cuter than that.

Fast Facts About Insects

  • Together, insects weigh more than all of the other living matter in an ecosystem.
  • Scientists estimate there are 2.5 to 10 million species of insects. Only 925,000 have been named

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